Literature / Malazan Book of the Fallen

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/AnomanderRake_9597.jpg
Anomander Rake, from the Gardens of the Moon collectors edition.
“Now these ashes have grown cold, we open the old book. These oil-stained pages recount the tales of the Fallen, a frayed empire, words without warmth. The hearth has ebbed, its gleam and life's sparks are but memories against dimming eyes - what cast my mind, what hue my thoughts as I open the Book of the Fallen and breathe deep the scent of history? Listen, then, to these words carried on that breath. These tales are the tales of us all, again yet again. We are history relived and that is all, without end that is all.”

Malazan Book of the Fallen is an epic fantasy series by Canadian author Steven Erikson. The series is famous for its Doorstopper tendencies, for having Loads and Loads of Charactersnote , its deliberate use of Lost in Medias Res and for introducing an anthropological and geological perspective to the Fantasy genre. The series' main influence is The Black Company by Glen Cook.

The Malazan Empire is yet in its infancy, and it has already seen its first betrayal. Surly, Master of the Claw, has assassinated Emperor Kellanved and his closest companion, Dancer. She takes the throne as Laseen, continuing the Empire’s policy of ruthless expansionism, though she is continually mistrusted.

On remote Genabackis, Imperial armies struggle to bring the continent to heel, as they face enemies both ancient and internal. The Bridgeburners are decimated, the Old Guard assassinated, and Laseen wants more. On the other end of the Empire, the Seven Cities subcontinent is gathering for a religiously mandated uprising known as the Whirlwind, and undermanned Imperial garrisons prepare for the inevitable bloodbath to come. Throughout it all, rumours of peoples thought extinct or myth returning with armies and allied with a broken god seeking vengeance can be heard.

The universe in which the story takes place is a shared creation of Steven Erikson and Ian Cameron Esslemont, with the Malazan Book of the Fallen considered to be the main sequence. The following books have been written in the setting:

    The Malazan Book of the Fallen 

    The Kharkanas Trilogy 

    Tales of Bauchelain & Korbal Broach (novellas) 
  • Blood Follows (2002)
  • The Healthy Dead (2004)
  • The Lees of Laughter's End (2007)
  • Crack'd Pot Trail (2010)
  • The Wurms of Blearmouth (2012)
  • The Fiends of Nightmaria (2016)

    Novels of the Malazan Empire (by Ian Cameron Esslemont) 

    Path to Ascendancy (by Ian Cameron Esslemont) 
  • Dancer's Lament (2016)


This series provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade:
    • It seems that all Hust Swords were like this, but most, if not all of them were lost. Yedan Derryg wielding one of them in TCG can decapitate A DRAGON in two hits, and just the fact of owning the sword changes him into an One-Man Army.
    • The Whiteblade is made from chaos and will cut through most things like butter. If you do not know how to properly handle it, just touching the blade will cost you fingers or even a hand.
  • Abusive Precursors: Pretty much everyone at some point or another. The Forkrul Assail get a special mention for their deliberate slaying of their god.
  • Achey Scars: Borne by Toc the Younger, whose eye keeps scratching.
  • Action Girl: Most of the women, in fact, as the primary focus is on armies and Gender Is No Object.
  • All Amazons Want Hercules: Played for laughs with Ublala Pung. All the amazonian women want him for his... physical assets, but poor Ublala just can't deal with being used and not getting any emotional support out of it.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Fear Sengar and Tavore Parran as a Gender Flip
  • Ancient Conspiracy: The Nameless Ones, whose goal is to keep Icarium out from destroying civilization while simultaneously using him as a weapon. Much to their chagrin, the conspiracy is wiped out in the prologue of The Bonehunters.
  • And I Must Scream: Both Bidithal and Sirryn get afterlives full of suffering, for raping and mutilating young girls and for backstabbing Trull, respectively. The Crippled God has also been subject to excruciating torture for hundreds of thousands of years, which is a large part of why he is the way he is.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Urb professes his love for Sergeant Hellian right before the ultimate end battle in The Crippled God.
  • Animal Eye Spy: Bottle, the mage of Fiddler's squad, was taught how to access all of the various Warrens (schools of magic), but his most important skill is his ability to control animals in his vicinity, something he insists is not actually a form of magic. This proves instrumental in keeping his squad alive while they're crossing hostile territory, as he can spread out over a large number of creatures at the same time if all he wants is their sensory input.
  • Animorphism: Soletaken and D'ivers are people with shapeshifting abilities. Soletaken can shift into another form — typically a dragon, but some shift into bears or other shapes — while D'ivers split into multiple copies of the same animal, such as a swarm of rats. Each shapeshifter has only one alternative form, and in the case of the D'ivers, the number of copies depends on their power.
  • Anti-Villain:
    • Cotillion at first, until he regains his humanity.
    • Felisin Paran, who in the end is just a mind slave of an insane goddess.
    • The Crippled God falls in here too, as all he wants is be made whole and go home.
  • Ascended Fanfic: The setting began as a homebrewed Dungeons & Dragons campaign, then switched over to GURPS when the system limitations became too strict. According to Word of God, about a fifth of Fallen was gamed beforehand.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Pretty much the most important aspect of setting - to keep it short, if you do something extraordinary, you can become an Ascendant, which grants some nice magic powers and immortal life... if no one will kill you, as Ascendants often fight beetwen themselves. Ascendants who have worshipers can then become gods, but some characters in books don't want that to happen, and are actively discouraging others from worshiping them - for example, Anomander Rake. Sometimes, one can Ascend involuntarily, as when Ganoes Paran becomes Master of the Deck of Dragons or the Crippled God makes Karsa Orlong Knight of Chains. One can also ascend temporarily, as when Thordy becomes Mason of Death for a day or two in Toll the Hounds.
  • Artifact of Doom: Rhulad Sengar's sword, which is a gift of the Crippled God. The person bound to the sword will be tortured and forcibly resurrected each time they die.
  • Badass Abnormal:
    • Ascendants in a nutshell, who are nearly immortal, get more power than before ascending, and can even become gods, if will get worshipers.
    • The Avowed of the Crimson Guard were already formidable fighters and mages but the Vow seems to have turned them into something beyond that. In Assail it is revealed that they accidentally recreated the T'lan Imass ritual and became undead as a consequence. They do not posses all the T'lan Imass abilities but are highly resistant to magic.
  • Badass Boast: Kallor has one of the best boasts in the history of boasts:'I walked this land when the T'lan Imass were but children. I have commanded armies a hundred thousand strong. I have spread the fire of my wrath across entire continents, and sat alone upon tall thrones. Do you grasp the meaning of this?' To which Caladan Brood replies. "Yes. You never learn."
  • Badass Bystander: Corporal Blues, a low-ranking and minor character, comes out of nowhere in Gardens of the Moon to best Adjunct Lorn in a swordfight. She's utterly bewildered that some random soldier could outfight her, without magic no less. She flees after suffering serious injury. Blues doesn't go on to do all that much in the rest of the series.
  • Badass Grandpa: Kallor. Several hundred thousand years old, looks like he's in his eighties, fights as well or better than many of the established Badasses.
  • Badass Normal: Notably Kalam. Also, Crokus, Rallick Nom, and probably any (non-Bridgeburner) Malazan soldier.
  • Barbarian Tribe: Teblors, who are really Thelomen Tartheno Toblakai.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Lostara keeps rejecting Pearl's advances, yet is attracted to him nonetheless. Eventually she gives in and admits to herself her feelings for him near the end of House of Chains. Karsa and Samar also develop this kind of relationship, which is finally consummated in The Crippled God.
  • Big Bad: The Crippled God, although he is not introduced as such until Memories of Ice. In the final novel his plans are hijacked by the Forkrul Assail, and he becomes the Big Good. In the end, there is no Big Bad, but rather Big Bad Ensemble: an alliance of K'Chain Nah'Ruk, Tiste Liosan and Forkrul Assail, with support of Errant, Kilimandros, Sechul Lath, and probably more minor gods feeding themselves on Kaminsod's power.
  • Bigger Bad: The Crippled God is a power behind Pannion Seer and Emperor Rhulad, and is trying to hijack Goddess of Tornado in Seven Cities.
    • The Crippled God himself is eventually subjected to this, as described above in the spoiler under Big Bad.
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: Some characters seem to take this opinion, while others disagree. Ublala Pung gets a lot of female attention due to his ample endowment, which he isn't always happy about. On the other hand, Felisin Paran finds Beneth's immense size physically painful.
  • Black and Gray Morality: Generally, both sides will be at fault in any particular conflict in the series, although the audience is encouraged to take the side of the one with the least destructive goals. Rarely, a straight-up villain will be thrown into the mix, such as the Pannion Domin in Memories of Ice. Although even the leader of this ends up having a Freudian Excuse and being Brainwashed and Crazy.
  • Blessed with Suck:
    • Ganoes Paran, several times (first for being fought over by the gods, for presumably obvious reasons; secondly for having himself and later his sword made a tool of Oponn, both of which get him followed by a lot of sinister forces; thirdly for becoming Master of the Deck of Dragons, although he eventually gets over seeing the last of these this way).
    • Toc the Younger also has this happen repeatedly (at the bare minimum, getting the urge to scratch his empty eye socket whenever in the presence of magic, being inhabited by Togg, and being made Mortal Sword when he really has no desire to fight anymore).
    • The Emperor of a Thousand Deaths quickly comes to see his constant resurrections this way, because he's tortured in between each death and resurrection and becomes a little more insane each time he comes back. Not to mention the hideous Body Horror to which he's been subjected, thanks to a Tiste Edur death ritual that was performed on his body before anyone realised he'd be coming back.
    • Korabas, the Otataral Dragon, is made of pure anti-magic. Which is a serious problem for her, because it means that wherever she flies, she brings destruction, since all other life is magic. She never asked to be made what she is, and in fact actually wants to create something. However, due to what she is, that option isn't available to her. Worse still, it means she needs to be chained for the good of everything else on the planet. She would like to be free, but for their own sake, the rest of the planet can't give her that option. It's not even a case of malice on either Korabas' part or the part of anyone keeping her chained, and there doesn't appear to be a solution that would make everyone happy.
  • Blood Knight: Karsa is the barbarian Up to Eleven, and likes nothing more than a good fight... At least before his Character Development.
  • Blood Magic: The eldest form of magic in the setting, it goes back way before the Warren system was established — which, ironically, was done using blood magic.
  • Born Lucky: Oponn, the Twin Jesters of Chance, are two gods whose portfolio has to do with luck. The female Oponn, the Lady, will sometimes give mortals what is referred to as the Lady's Pull, making them lucky. These include:
    • Corabb Bhilan Thenu'alas. He has nearly every form of cancer on the planet, yet will never sicken. Multiple Arrows fired into his back all strike the same spear shaft hanging on his back, and such. On the other hand, everything he tries results in a lucky fumble—he will drop his weapon if he swings it, but it will probably trip up his foe. This is exploited at one point when his squad needs to take down an officer but can't get close enough for a clear shot: Corabb is made to fire the crossbow, which predictably causes the shot to go wildly off-mark, but the ricochet causes it to impale the target's neck perfectly.
    • Sergeant Hellian, the constantly drunk watchwoman-turned-soldier, is quite formidable a Drunken Master without any help, but at the climax of The Bonehunters, she receives the Lady's Pull when she drunkenly decides to swim through the harbor of Malaz City(which is known to be full of sharks) to hunt for more liquor. Whether this is a permanent investment or not is left unclear.
    • Crokus Younghand unwittingly receives the Lady's Pull in Gardens of the Moon, which saves his life multiple times. The Twins mostly use him as an unwitting Spanner in the Works for the local plans. The luck seemingly wears off at the end of the book, when the Twins decide his role is played out.
  • Boy Meets Girl: Crokus Younghand and Apsalar. They first meet in the Gadrobi Hills outside Darujhistan and are somewhat taken with each other in an awkward teenage fashion. After crossing continents to find Apsalar's father and return her to her home village, she decides she doesn't want to drag Crokus down into the life she is leading as a Professional Killer and pulls a Break His Heart to Save Him. A Maybe Ever After is implied when he nonetheless comes to find her at the end of The Crippled God.
  • Braids of Barbarism: Many of the Proud Warrior Race Guys (e.g. the Barghast, the Tiste Edur, the Awl) sport variations of Barbarian Longhair, Braids of Barbarism and dreadlocks. Among the Tiste Edur, when a warrior is cast out from their tribe, his head gets shaved completely and treated magically so that the hair will never grow back again.
  • Break the Cutie: Felisin Paran is forced into a life of slavery and prostitution by her own sister, enduring an epic journey across oceans and desert, being possessed and finally impaled by her own unwitting sister.
  • Break the Haughty: the Queen of Lether is introduced as a powerful, gorgeous woman who's political influence is somewhat greater than her much older husband. After helping start a war with the Tiste Edur for her own amusement, she and her son are defeated, captured and exposed to chaos magic that literally twists her into a hideous snake thing that is kept alive as a demonstration of the King in Chains power. To top it off, due to her near immobility she grows obese.
  • Broken Bird: Felisin Paran has been thoroughly broken by her ordeal as a slave in the Otataral mines, which ultimately turns out to have been caused by her own sister. She is subsequently possessed by the Whirlwind Goddess and it ultimately leads to her death, again at the hands of her own sister. Ironically, her sister only did the first to prevent Felisin from being killed in the Malazan Empire's purge of noble families and intended her to be rescued much sooner than she was, and did not realise she was fighting her sister at all in the second case. Felisin is a bit of a Jerkass Woobie, but after what she's been through it's completely understandable. She's far from the only example in the series.
  • Butt Monkey: Toc the Younger. He loses an eye, is sucked into a magic black hole, is thrown out a half year later, killed, resurrected in a new body, loses the same eye at least twice more, is betrayed, dies again, is made to serve Hood, god of Death, and forced to make his best friend his enemy.
  • Cavalry of the Dead: When the Bridgeburners Ascend, they rise as undead but are unfettered to Hood's realm—the Warren of Death and the local afterlife. In Toll the Hounds, everyone who ever died is marched out of the Warren of Death, although most of them are too long dead to feel anything but apathy.
  • Celibate Hero: Shield Anvil Itkovian is this, owing to his religious vows. Hetan tries to seduce him several times, but he resists each time. Even after Fener apparently disappears, he remains an example of this trope.
  • Central Theme: Per Word of God, the decline and collapse of civilizations is one of the central themes of the books, which at least one character seeks to achieve in order to save the world.
  • Character Filibuster: Kruppe and Iskaral Pust are both very long-winded in their speech, and the other characters are usually too flabbergasted to interrupt them when they open their mouths. In some cases, their speeches can go on for several pages.
  • Chekhov's Armory: For a series this long, there obviously have to be a few of these. Most come to naught, but then there are obvious ones like Dragnipur in Gardens of the Moon, and Stormy and Gesler being casually named Shield Anvil and Mortal Sword in The Bonehunters.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The dagger gifted by Bugg/Mael to Tavore Paran in Dust of Dreams.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: This series is in love with this trope. First mentions about Icarium and Gothos are in the first novel, but they appear in story in the second. Karsa Orlong is introduced as a very minor character in Deadhouse Gates. The most significant is the crucified dragon found in House of Chains.
  • The Chessmaster: Shadowthrone, whose actions are responsible for a fairly large portion of the plot, stands out as a particularly noteworthy example, although there are several others.
  • Characterization Marches On: Cotillion appears to be practically a monster while possessing Sorry, but becomes much more sympathetic after Gardens of the Moon.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Tehol Beddict
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Seems to be the natural behavior of Eleint (dragons), for both soultaken and true dragons. Several die as a direct result of said betrayals.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: So, so, so many characters get this in the series proper via a No Ending, Long Bus Trip, or Put on a Bus to Hell, although sometimes they appear in the side stories.
  • Cliffhanger: Generally averted before Dust of Dreams, as most books resolve their major plot threads while leaving some elements of the Myth Arc unresolved. This was done on purpose, because Erikson dislikes having to wait to find out what happens next. Dust of Dreams, however, plays it straight since, as Erikson points out in his author's note to that book, it would have been impossible to publish all the events of the Grand Finale in the same volume without inventing a new form of book binding.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Ceda Kuru Quan, who jumpes from thread to thread during every discussion. Tehol also has shades of this.
  • Creepy Child: Kettle, an undead who is Really 700 Years Old but is stuck with the appearance of a nine-year-old girl. She's also a deadly assassin who kills people to keep a dying Azath House alive for as long as possible and delay the Sealed Evils in a Can that inhabit it from escaping. She does try to target only deserving victims, though.
  • Colony Drop: Moon's Spawn, a levitating piece of rock described as a small mountain, gets dropped on the Pannon Domin army in Memories of Ice.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Despite the Claw being played up as elite assassins and mages, Kalam manages to tear through the best of them in both Deadhouse Gates and again in The Bonehunters. However, he ends both occasions badly wounded and is Not Quite Dead at the end of Bonehunters.
    • Somewhat justified by him being a Clawmaster and a match for the patron god of assassins, pre-ascension.
  • Constructed World: One of the most expansive examples, as it was initially constructed during role-playing sessions and has hundreds of thousands of years of history. Since both the creators are anthropologists and archaeologists, there is quite a lot of verisimilitude to the setting.
  • Cool Sword: Dragnipur, which swallows the souls of those slain by it. Mention also goes out to Karsa's bloodwood swords, made of wood and harder than stone, and Karsa's stone sword, an eight foot length of flint containing the souls of his best friends.
  • Crapsack World: Seemingly everyone is at war with one another; the land is crawling with horrors that can kill people without breaking a sweat; rape, slavery, attempted genocide, and similar forms of brutality are rampant; the gods themselves are frequently jerkasses and often think of mortals as nothing more than pawns; the planet itself is being poisoned.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: As a general rule, if you meet someone who's weak, unassuming, and/or downright wacky, the appropriate response is to run away screaming, and don't look back. Ceda Kuru Quan is a good example. He spends most of Midnight Tides acting out of his mind, but is actually preparing a spell to wipe out an entire invading army — and nearly succeeds.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Anomander Rake and the Tiste Andii in general; despite being creatures of Darkness, they are unambiguously not evil, and assist the heroes on many occasions. Also Hood, who is one of the more decent gods despite being the god of Death.
  • Death Is Cheap: Very, though at least there's a healthy dose of Came Back Wrong going around to balance things out. Whilst there are a few permanent demises here and there, death is usually not to be feared in this series because of immediate, guaranteed Cessation of Existence, but because it's anyone's guess what's going to emerge from your grave once someone or something inevitably resurrects you.
    • List of characters who have come back from the dead in some fashion at least once as of book 4: Crust, Hawl, Tattersail, Bellurdan, Nightchill, Hairlock, Ganoes Paran, Baudin, Duiker, Coltaine, Toc the Younger, Truth, Trake, Bairoth Gild, Delum Thord, Apsalar's father, two Hounds of Shadow, the T'lan Imass as a race, the K'chain Che'Malle as a race, and all of the Bridgeburners. That's not counting Fiddler, Kalam, Corabb, and others who narrowly escape death on a regular basis.
  • Death World: It's a wonder there's anybody NOT in the military given how many things can and will try to kill off anything else.
  • Deity of Human Origin: Ascendants can become gods if they have worshipers. Itkovian starts as mere human, but after his Heroic Sacrifice becomes A Redeemer, god of, well, redemption and forgiveness. Even Shadowthrone and Cotillon were humans once.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Karsa, whose tribal culture considers rape and pillage as a Rite of Passage.
  • Demonic Possession: Okay, divine possession. Felisin's possession by the Whirlwind Goddess leads to her death at the hands of her own sister, who never even realised who she was fighting.
  • Deus ex Machina: This is the primary purpose of the Houses of Azath. In addition, the Trygalle Trading Guild in Deadhouse Gates, the army of Bridgeburner ghosts in House of Chains. Justified in that all three of these are discussed at length in the book they're used, and others. There were rules for all three. And there were consequences for them all as well.
  • Ganoes Paran kills Poliel, the goddess of plague, without breaking much of a sweat.
  • High King Kallor finds himself cursed by three Elder Gods for his misdeeds. He curses them back — and it sticks.
  • In Dust of Dreams, Ublala Pung cold-cocks The Errant.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: A long time ago, an Imass cheated on his wife. Her reaction? She became a mad goddess of war dedicated to wiping out the human species she saw as descended from his tryst..
  • The Dog Bites Back: The war between the Imass and the Jaghut is a species-wide example. The Imass rebelled against the Jaghut Tyrant warlocks, and drove the Jaghut to near extinction. To ensure they were thorough, almost the entire species enacted a ritual to turn them into undead, and the T'lan Imass have spent the last 320,000 years hunting the Jaghut.
  • Doorstopper: All the books (aside from Night of Knives and the novellas) are at least 700 pages, and top out at 1200. Erikson lampshades this in an author's note in the ninth book when he sarcastically notes that he is "not known for writing door-stopper tomes".
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male and Double Standard: Rape, Divine on Mortal: Averted. When Menandore rapes Udinaas, it's treated as suitably horrifying, traumatic, and painful.
  • Dream Land: The sleeping goddess Burn is said to dream reality, so, technically speaking, all of reality in the world where the books take place, is this.
  • Drop the Hammer: Caladan Brood wields a great hammer so badass that it has the power to awaken the sleeping earth goddess Burn (whose body is apparently the earth itself).
  • Dual Wielding: Knives, swords, cutlasses, flails...
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: A lot of people die, most characters go to hell and back, yet in the end an ancient crime is repaired, a threat to the world is dealt with, and those that survived find a new will to live, and, most importantly, hope.
  • Elemental Powers: More than the traditional four. Also, the Lost Elementals that are mentioned by Cotillion in House of Chains
  • The Empire: Empires in general being a theme of the series, a number of them appear or are discussed:
    • Many of the implications of this trope are averted with the Malazan Empire in that many of the protagonists work for it and in that maybe it isn't as evil as it seems at first glance. It's fairly egalitarian and its subjects enjoy generally competent administration and have religious and economic freedom. Often forcibly.
    • The Lether Empire on the other hand is a straight example, with its extreme class divisions and fixation on wealth and conquest for its own sake. Lether gets worse when it officially becomes an empire when the Tiste Edur take over (previously it was "just" a kingdom) but it's still clear that a lot of the worst excesses were part of Letherii culture all along.
    • The Pannion Domin is a comparatively small but exceptionally belligerent and expansionist theocratic empire in central Genabackis. It was considered enough of a threat for Dujek Onearm's Malazan army and Caladan Brood's anti-Malazan alliance to pull an Enemy Mine to stop it. That's because in addition to aforementioned expansionism the Domin practices rampant cannibalism, is led by a Jaghut Tyrant, and is being secretly backed by the Crippled God, though the last is true of Lether too.
    • The nation of Shal-Morzinn, southwest of Seven Cities, is also described as an empire, though it is never visited on-page. It's apparently ruled by a trio of immortal sorcerers called the Three, is extremely isolationist, and when Emperor Kellanved of the Malazans visited during his reign, whatever he saw was enough to convince him to just not bother with invading there, a policy the Malazans still continue.
    • In terms of historical empires, there's the original First Empire (the civilization of the Imass before they became undead) the second First Empire (the first powerful human nation, founded by Emperor Dessimbelackis in what would become Seven Cities) and the Kallorian Empire (founded slightly after the human First Empire in Jacuruku, led by, of course, High King Kallor). Both of the early human empires fell to supernatural cataclysms long ago (Kallor's by his own hand) but their histories play a key role in the backstory.
  • Enfant Terrible: Kettle is an undead girl and serial killer feeding a dying Azath tower.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: Ascendants, for the most part. Badass normals one moment, immortal demi-gods the next. Exactly what an Ascendant is is never explained, nor does anyone seem to quite know, but being badass and being very difficult to kill seems to be at the core of the concept.
  • Eunuchs Are Evil: Korbal Broach. He actually became a necromancer because as a eunuch he couldn't create life anymore.
  • Everybody Knew Already: Sgt. Stringsnote  and Travelernote  don't seem to be fooling anyone who's even heard of them, pre-name change
  • Evil Albino: Silchas Ruin, described as "the most cruel of the three sons of Mother Dark".
  • Fantastic Racism: Humans are racist towards other humans just like in real life, but the Tiste races hate each other. The T'Lann Imass make themselves undead so they can kill off the Jaghut.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Getting killed by Dragnipur equals spending eternity chained to the gates of the Warren of Darkness. In Garden of the Moon, some men who have betrayed Anomander Rake are given the choice between committing suicide and being slain by Dragnipur. They all chose suicide.
  • Floating Continent: Moon's Spawn. And the island of Drift Avalii floats literally in the ocean.
  • Functional Magic: The Warrens
  • Gambit Pileup: Every god, Ascendant, and major human leader has some sort of long-range plan
  • Gaia's Vengeance: Subverted - it's Poliel, goddess of Disease, who thinks that Burn would want that done in her name.
  • Genius Loci: The Mockra Warren and Azath Houses
  • Genocide Backfire: Subverted — the Jaghut survivors aren't interested in revenge against the T'lan Imass; they just want to be left alone.
  • The Ghost: Plenty of characters are namechecked but never appear in the main story — the most prominent being Admiral Nok and High Fist Greymane.
  • God-Emperor: Jaghut Tyrants. Also Shadowthrone/Kellanved, although he was never both at the same time
  • Goldfish Poop Gang: Bauchelain and Korbal Broach are quirky, eccentric villains. They don't generally present the heroes with much direct antagonism but are responsible for the deaths of plenty of unnamed characters.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: The siege of Capustan in Memories of Ice, although the besieged are strangers to the heroes.
  • Great Offscreen War: Being a ten-volume doorstopper series with a millenia-spanning backstory, this series has a couple:
    • The so called Jaghut War on Death is said to have happened millenia ago. The only source of information on that is an undead dragon in the eighth book, who claims that it happened and brought the Jaghut — usually a solitary bunch prone to becoming hermits — together in entire armies, as well as allies from almost every race in existence at that time. High King Kallor, who's old enough to have seen the Jaghut in their prime, has never heard of that war and refuses to believe the dragon. The trope is, however, later averted in the prequel, The Kharkanas Trilogy, where it happens onscreen, but is still in play for the main series.
    • The civil war that sundered the Tiste home realm of Kurald Galain is often references but barely ever shown, and what little information there is tends to contradict itself. All that's certain is that it destroyed Kurald Galain and caused the three Tiste peoples to evacuate into other realms, and was caused by Mother Dark turning away from her children. Again, this one is averted in the prequel trilogy, but remains in play in the main series.
    • The extermination war in which the T'lan Imass decided they'd had enough of being ruled over by the Jaghut Tyrants and vowed to hunt the latter into extinction is also often referenced and important for the setting's backstory, but only bits and pieces of information are given to the reader. This one happened at least three hundred thousand years before the main story.
    • Another extermination war with even less information available is that of the Forkrul Assail against the followers of the god best known as the Errant. It reduced the Errant's power drastically and himself from the local top god to skulking the shadows. And that's pretty much all that is known about it. Other than that he is still smarting tens of thousands of years later.
    • The Forkrul Assail — they love their war mongering — invasion of the sub-continent of Kolanse is very sparsely explained, but being important to the series' backstory, it is referenced quite often once introduced. They showed up in their ships, took over, caused a famine and have been lording over Kolanse ever since. How exactly they managed to gain control over several kingdoms can only be inferred thanks to their particular style of magic.
    • The various conquests of the Malazan Empire are mostly only referenced, chiefly among them the conquest of the continents of Korelri and Genabackis (only the tail-end of which is shown) and the sub-continent of Seven Cities. The latter plays the bigger role in the backstory of the series as it provides the set-up for the Whirlwind Rebellion that happens in the second volume.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: Very few villains in the series are downright evil. Even the most heinous of antagonists do what they do without a thought-out reason. Conversely, the protagonists are not free from blame, either, for the most part. In a few books, the major conflict lacks a side with any kind of moral high ground.
  • Guttural Growler: Count how many times "growled" or "grunted" is used as a dialogue tag.
  • Hegemonic Empire: The titular Malazan Empire may have been assembled mostly by military conquest, but the constituent nations are by and large satisfied with being part of it, as the alternative is reverting to constant bickering with neighbours.
  • Hellhounds: The Hounds of Shadow, and later, the Deragoth (Hounds of Darkness) and Hounds of Light. They are roughly horse-sized, terrifyingly quick and strong, and very difficult to kill. It is later learned that they are D'ivers — a shapeshifter capable of splitting into multiple animal forms. Whether the Hounds are capable of shifting back, or even want to, is never addressed.
  • Hellish Horse: Karsa's horse, Havok, which is a carnivorous half-breed created by the Jaghut.
  • Her Heart Will Go On: Seren Pedac, after the death of Trull Sengar in Reaper's Gale. Complete with Someone to Remember Him By.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Icarium and Mappo; Fiddler and Hedge; Quick Ben and Kalam; Gesler and Stormy; Tehol and Bugg... It seems to be a reccuring trope in this series.
  • Hidden Depths: Bugg. Not only a Servile Snarker, but also The Elder God Mael in disguise, hanging out with Tehol because "he hadn't so much fun for centuries".
  • How Do I Shot Web?: After becoming the Master of the Deck of Dragons, Ganoes Paran spends quite a while not knowing what his abilities (or responsibilities) actually are, let alone how to use them. By The Crippled God he has become a full-blown Space Master capable of opening portals between or within dimensions and can go to or summon to himself anyone represented by the Deck. Since he is also commanding a Badass Army this is terrifyingly effective in terms of logistics and maneuvers.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The Pannion Domin is an empire completely based on this.
  • Implacable Man: The Forkul Assail and T'lan Imass are races composed of implacable men. Most Jaghut are as well
  • Inciting Incident: What kicks of the Myth Arc of the Malazan Book of the Fallen is the fall of the Crippled God, hundreds of thousand years prior to the start of the first book.
  • Karmic Death: Most of the antagonists that don't die in direct battle get one of these.
  • Kill 'em All: 75% of the Loads and Loads of Characters will not be breathing by the end of their third book. A good third won't make it to the end of their debut book. It's called Book of the Fallen for a reason.
  • Knight Templar:
    • The Tiste Liosan, near-mythical cousins of the Tiste Andii whose aspect is Light. As a rule, they keep to themselves, but every so often someone will stumble into their realms or they will stumble out.
    • The T'lan Imass, the Neanderthals of the setting, who almost to a man underwent a magical ritual 320,000 years ago to ensure the Jaghut were made completely extinct. As a result, they rendered their own species functionally extinct.
  • Kudzu Plot: Each book typically shifts between dozens — if not hundreds — of distinct, and often unimportant, viewpoints. Plot lines are set up on seemingly every page, and only a few are followed through. Per Word of God, this is very much deliberate, as the series was conceived as a high-brow work to begin with. It's also Justified In-Universe as the Crippled God is presented as having penned the series In-Universe so that the sacrifices of those who freed him would not be forgotten, meaning that all the details were deliberately placed there by the narrator of the series.
  • Lighter and Softer: Not thematically, but Erikson has announced that the Kharkanas Trilogy will have a slightly more traditional and less complex structure.
  • Light Is Not Good: The Tiste Liosan, a species of Tiste (elves) whose aspect is Light, but who over the many millennia since the split of the Tiste have become more and more extreme, arrogant and isolationist.
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: As mentioned above, the Crippled God is the In-Universe narrator of the work, and the unorthodox style of the series is a direct result of the reasons he penned the series. He's not quirky enough to qualify as a Lemony Narrator, but is nonetheless a pretty unconventional narrator.
  • Lizard Folk: The K'Chain Che'Malle, and their short-tailed creation, the K'Chain Nah'ruk, are very lizard-like in appearance, although their biological structure is closer to that of communal insects, such as ants or bees. Both are extremely ancient — the history of the K'Chain Che'Malle can be traced at least six million years back — but are now functionally extinct, and are considered little more than myth.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Reaper's Gale has seventy-two named Malazan soldiers, and that's only a part of the Dramatis Personae.
  • Mad Scientist: Korbal Broach kills and disembowels people so he can do creepy experiments on them. He even collects bottles of blood.
  • Mask Power:
    • Redmask, a man wearing a mask seemingly made from the hide of a creature with red scales. He is a hero of the Awl.
    • The Seguleh are a society who consider martial prowess to be the foremost of religious virtues. Their ruling caste, the warriors, all wear masks with different numbers of stripes indicating their current position, with fewer stripes being desirable.
  • The Masochism Tango: Iskaral Pust and Mogora, Karsa Orlong and Samar Dev.
  • Master Swordsman: Aside from the Seguleh, to whom martial prowess is a religious virtue, plenty abound. Brys Beddict, Anomander Rake, High King Kallor and Karsa Orlong are just a few of the more visible ones.
  • Mauve Shirt: Most Malazan soldiers who are even tangentially involved in the story get at least some characterization; it is possible that the Bridgeburners' burgundy uniforms are a Lampshade Hanging on the whole Red Shirt thing
  • Mayfly-December Romance: Whiskeyjack (human middle aged) and Korlat (millennia) in Memories of Ice, Spinnock Durav (also millennia) and Salind (teenager) in Toll the Hounds, Sandalath Drukorlat (also millennia) and Withal (human middle aged).
  • Messianic Archetype: Anomander Rake in Toll the Hounds. Don't forget Coltaine in Deadhouse Gates; the guy ends up being crucified on a hill top then is reborn, not to mention the devotion and worship that surrounds him both before and after his 'death'. The author actually seems to go out of his way to add parallels between him and good old JC.
  • Mind Rape: Sha'ik's possession of Felisin.
  • Mind Screw: The series' vague explanations and complex style of plotting tend to cause this for many readers.
  • Medieval Stasis: Not a pure example. While the world is truly ancient, different civilizations, some of which were not even human, have risen and fallen many times. Also, the K'Chain Che'Malle and Nah'Ruk reached higher technological levels. Lether also has magical reasons for being kept in a permanently primitive status.
  • MS T3k Mantra: Don't try to make sense of the timeline; really, don't.
  • Murder, Inc.:
    • The Guild of Assassins in Darujhistan is exactly what it calls itself. They are headed by Guild Mistress Vorcan and organized in internal clans and make it possible for noble families to settle their disputes away from the public eye.
    • The Claw doubles as the Secret Police of the Malazan Empire. They are typically trained from a young age and organized in Hands, which often include assassin mages as well. Any place facing a Malazan conquering army tends to shit its metaphorical pants at even the rumor of a Claw Hand or two having slipped in to prepare their army's arrival.
    • The Talon was the precursor of the Claw, but with less emphasis on the police and more on the secret parts. It was allegedly wiped out by the Claw to secure Empress Laseen's hold on the empire, yet rumors of a few agents still existing and operating tend to have even the Claw scamper in near panic.
    • The Kingdom of Lether has the peculiarly named Rat Catcher's Guild which purposes to do just that, catch rats and other vermin. In truth, they act as the unofficial assassins guild, the guild of thieves, a refugee smuggling ring and are conveniently contracted by the crown to investigate disappearances.
  • Mushroom Samba: The hallucinogenic honey in The Bonehunters
  • Mytharc: Although there are three rough story arcs spread between the three books — commonly called the Genabackis, Seven Cities and Letheras (or Tiste Edur) arcs, after their respective primary geographical settings — they all interweave and connect to the arc of the Crippled God.
  • The Namesake: Memories of Ice, The Bonehunters and Toll the Hounds all refer to important events; the first example is also used as a Title Drop and the third as Arc Words. Meanwhile, The Crippled God is named for, well, the Crippled God.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast:
    • "The Emperor of a Thousand Deaths" refers to an emperor who, no matter how often he is killed, always returns to life again, allowing him to wear down even the most skilled foe.
    • Icarium Lifestealer is a seemingly immortal half-breed whose memory is reset each time he suffers a bad enough injury. Although seemingly harmless, as he is an extremely meek person, riling him up will cause him to enter a nearly unstoppable rage which will cause him to destroy everything around him, and makes him nearly impervious to attack.
    • "The Son of Darkness" is the appellation given to Anomander Rake, the leader of the Tiste Andii. Their native Warren (magical realm which they can access and have a special affinity for) is Kurald Galain, the Realm of Darkness, and his title is closely tied to their vanished matriarch slash goddess, Mother Dark. The title marks him as one of the rulers of the realm, and he is one of the most dangerous beings of the Malazan universe — although as a ruler, he is quite benign.
    • The series likes this trope a lot with characters named things like Envy, Malice, Spite, Fear Sengar, Silchas Ruin, Cutter, Shadowthrone, Throatslitter, Grave, Scorn, and so on. Many of these end up being Subverted or at least Played With due to the large number of such characters who end up as Anti-Heroes or at worst Anti-Villains (though they're almost always still badasses), but in the case of the Forkrul Assail who have such names it's almost always played straight.
  • Narrator All Along: The Crippled God is revealed in the final book to have narrated the entire series. The unorthodox narrative style of the series is attributable in-universe to his motivations for writing the series.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: All kinds of hybrids between different intelligent species
  • No-One Could Survive That: Characters routinely survive events that would have killed ordinary mortals. A great example is Kruppe surviving a blast from Caladan Brood's hammer, which is rumoured to have the power to awaken the sleeping goddess Burn and therefore end the world. He's completely unscathed, despite everyone else around him being bowled over and the surrounding landscape being irrevocably blasted. Other characters survive events assumed to have killed them, and others still are resurrected. Since this is a World of Badass, it's to be expected.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Tehol Beddict and Bugg; possibly also Iskaral Pust, although he might just be genuinely mad. Then there's Kruppe, who uses all the standard Obfuscating Stupidity techniques, but never seems to actually fool anyone; the other characters all know he's smart, and his acting like an idiot all the time usually ticks them off . . . which may be the real reason why he does it.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Most professional soldiers, especially the Malazan ones.
  • Our Demons Are Different: "Demon" is a blanket term for beings from other worlds. This goes both ways; Word of God has it that each side in a summoning considers the other to be monstrous, and neither cares to actually investigate how true this is.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Dragons, known as Eleint, are very magical in nature, and don't really care about other species as a rule. Mostly they keep to their Warren, the extremely hostile Starvald Demelain. There are numerous Soletaken with a dragon form, however.
  • Our Elves Are Better: Tiste races, especially the Liosan, who are a massive deconstruction of the elves in other fantasy sagas.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: The Thelomen Toblaki and their almost innumerable related species.
  • Our Orcs Are Different: The Jaghuts; with the exception of the Tyrantsnote  they are actually peaceful in nature.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The T'lan Imass. Shurq Elalle is another example—she is cursed, and even after death by drowning her soul is still connected with body. The setting does have normal zombies, however—necromancers use them as beasts of labour or as scarecrows for civilians, and other mages and magical beings can raise them if sufficiently motivated.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Crokus is an absolutely lethal assassin and knife fighter, whose skills surpass people who were badass in the first book. He just keeps ending up in fights with immortals, demigods and monsters. He finally gets to take on opponents in his weight class in Toll The Hounds, and shines.
  • Pet the Dog: Rhulad is a half insane emperor wielding cursed sword, but he really wants to be a good ruler, has sort of friendship with Udinaas, and gives his brother Fear Mayen back.
  • Pieces of God: The Warrens are literally the body and blood of the Elder God K'rul.
  • Precursors: The four founding races all qualify - the K'Chain Che'Malle being the oldest, then the Jaghut and Forkrul Assail, and finally the T'lan Imass. All of these races are effectively extinct for different reasons, with only a few surviving members that rarely interact with the world (except in the case of the Imass, who are around but undead and still don't typically mix with the living) but their legacies still hang over the setting and help shape much of the plot. All of them have at least some members who qualify as Abusive Precursors, especially the Forkrul Assail.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Karsa Orlong. Again. And many others.
  • Purple Prose: While most of the text is just right in terms of wordiness, Erikson has a fondness for letting characters reflect at length on philosophy, using a more complex and out-of-place vocabulary. These segments take up quite a bit of room, and are largely responsible for the length of the individual books.
  • Put on a Bus: Silverfox disappears at the end of Memories of Ice, and only reappears in Assail. Due to the sheer volume of characters, this is not an uncommon occurrence.
  • Random Events Plot: Viewpoints shift constantly and often show events which have little to do with each other; piecing together the narrative is part of the charm of the series. Nevertheless, many scenes are seemingly unimportant to the overall story, and seem to serve little purpose. Word of God has it that the idea is to show just a slice of the events going on in the world; if something seems unrelated to the rest of the story, it's probably there to remind the reader that the world doesn't revolve around the main narrative.
  • Rape as Drama: Due to the Crapsack World nature of the setting, quite a few characters have been victims of this. Examples from the first five books alone include, but are not limited to, Stonny Menackis, Felisin Younger, Scillara, Seren Pedac, Udinaas, and Mayen, not to mention numerous background characters. Unsurprisingly, different characters have different reactions, though it usually ends up causing a rather large shift in their Character Arcs. Some of them ultimately become darker characters (Mayen's abuse of Feather Witch is noted to have gotten much worse and borderline sexual in itself after her forced betrothal), while some go on entirely justified Roaring Rampages of Revenge, others end up brainwashed until someone gets them to snap out of it, and others still suffer stoically (though to be fair Udinaas doesn't have much choice as he's been raped by a goddess who is entirely beyond his capacity to deal with). Felisin Paran is a borderline example as it's doubtful that she'd have begun prostituting herself if she hadn't been Made a Slave, but she's implied to have considered her options and concluded that it was the best option for herself and her friends regardless.
  • Really Gets Around: Quite a lot of characters fall under this at some point in the series, including Lady Simtal, Felisin Paran, Hetan, Shurq Ellale, Felisin Younger, and pretty much every priestess of Mother Dark, to name a few. Most of them are presented sympathetically, but Simtal is not. Some of them also eventually end up having monogamous relationships; for example, Hetan ends up married to Onos T'oolan.
  • Religion of Evil:
    • The Faith of the Pannion Seer, which is based around cannibalism. There is also a sect of fanatical women who produce children by raping dying soldiers. This is not played for titillation.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Dassem Ultor starts a fight with Rake because he killed Hood, the god of death, first.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Dassem Ultor, also known as Traveller. His only goal in life is killing Hood, god of death.
    • Gruntle is largely unmotivated in fighting during the siege of Capustan until an unnamed Seerdomin rapes his friend Stonny. While she quickly kills her rapist, both of them end up leading the resistance.
  • Role-Playing Game Verse: The setting grew out of Steven Erikson and Ian Cameron Esslemont becoming frustrated with the strict rules of Dungeons & Dragons and turning to GURPS game mechanics to create their own world, in which they gamed extensively. A big portion of the first volume, Gardens of the Moon, as well as other key events, were gamed, up to and including the series' finale.
  • Rotating Arcs: The series rotates between the Genabackis arc, which depicts the current Malazan attempt at expansion, the Seven Cities arc, which depicts a rebellion against the Malazan Empire, and the Lether arc, which depicts what is happening in the Big Bad's home turf. The Genabackis Arc is chiefly dealt with in Gardens of the Moon, Memories of Ice, and Toll the Hounds, the Seven Cities arc in Deadhouse Gates, House of Chains, and The Bonehunters, and the Lether arc in Midnight Tides and Reaper's Gale, while Dust of Dreams and The Crippled God tie the Myth Arc together; it should be noted, however, the elements of any given arc may show up or be foreshadowed in a book primarily concerned with a different arc, and some characters may jump from one arc to another or back again entirely.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Or buried in a barrow. Or chained to a monolith. Or captured by a House of the Azath. Grave robbing and amateur archeology are dangerous indeed in this world. Played straight, but also subverted at least once, in that the big, unstoppable evil gods rose... to be dispatched within minutes by the new badasses who have arisen to replace them.
  • Series Continuity Error: Some of them seem to be intentional or the result of an Unreliable Narrator, but there are still quite a lot:
    • Tattersail's account of the Siege of Pale in Gardens of the Moon differs quite substantially from the one Tayschrenn gives in Memories of Ice. In particular, Tayschrenn states that Nightchill killed A'Karonys, but in Tattersail's account, Nightchill died first. For storyline purposes, Tayschrenn's account is the correct one.
    • In Gardens of the Moon, Tool states that the battle in the Jhag Odhan was the end of the Twenty-Eighth Jaghut War, but in the prologue of Memories of Ice, which takes place thousands of years before Gardens, the T'lan Imass declare the end of the Thirty-Third Jaghut War.
    • Orfantal changes genders from female to male between Gardens of the Moon and Memories of Ice.
  • Servile Snarker: Bugg, Tehol Beddict's manservant, never really takes his master seriously.
  • Shout-Out: The Jaghut are based on the Green Martians from John Carter of Mars.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Just a little bit cynical
  • Smug Snake: Triban Gnol, Karos Invictad
  • Stop Worshipping Me: Anomander Rake actively denies any cults that spring up around him. Same goes for Fiddler, who absolutely does not want to be worshipped by other sappers; not that those care for his opinion. And it's not like Dessembrae asked to become Lord of Tragedy, either.
  • Stupid Neutral: The Forkrul Assail are now functionally extinct, in no small part due to their randomly switching sides during the war between Jaghut and T'lam Imass to ensure balance.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: The Warrens are often used this way.
  • The Power of Friendship: What allows the T'Lan Imass Tool and Onrack to start feeling emotions again. This also motivates the squad mage Beak's Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Third-Person Person: Kruppe is a man whose greatness is only surpassed by Kruppe's humility—a greatness, Kruppe hastens to add lest his good friends misjudge him most grievously, which refers more to his girth than the many skills Kruppe has shown his unmatched talent at—and as such refers to himself in the third person lest Kruppe's presence smother his attentive and handsome audience.
  • This Is Your Brain on Evil: About half of the Crippled God's followers get screwed over because they allied with him.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Bauchelain and Korbal Broach.
  • Those Two Guys: Fiddler and Hedge, Quick Ben and Kalam, Scorch and Leff, Telorast and Curdle, Deadsmell and Throatslitter.
  • Title Drop: At the very end of the series, Kaminsod resolves in his thoughts to write down the sacrifices the Malazans made to free him, entitling the work Malazan Book of the Fallen.
  • Tykebomb: Rud Elalle.
  • The Undead: Although necromancy exists in the setting, it is not necessarily frowned upon, although typical undead are fairly rare.
    • The T'lan Imass, a now-extinct species who nearly one and all enacted a ritual 320,000 years earlier to keep themselves alive in order to ensure that the Jaghut were truly hunted to extinction. They appear as dried, desiccated corpses, and can travel across long distances by turning into dust. They can not reappear or even maintain themselves in large volumes of water, however, and as such individuals sometimes commit what is effectively suicide by jumping into a lake or sea.
    • Everyone in Hood's realm—meaning most people who ever died—appears as a half-rotten corpse. Generally, this is a moot point, as they can not leave by themselves, but occasionally Hood will want to attend to matters in the living world, or a mage will want to pass through the realm, and it becomes clear that the dead have actual, physical bodies.
    • The thief Shurq Elalle would have died in a Letherii punishment called the Drownings, but one of her victims cursed her with undeath. When Tehol Beddict first meets her she's pretty much lost her enthusiasm for doing much of anything until he provides her with a way to enjoy carnal pleasures again. There are noted to be two other undead humans in Letheras, and we soon meet both of them: Harlast Eberict, who was cursed by his sociopathic (and living) brother, and Kettle, who is Really 700 Years Old but has been stuck with the appearance of a nine-year-old girl. The latter of these is an assassin who kills to delay the release of Sealed Evils in a Can and tries only to kill deserving targets. Kettle is ultimately revealed not to be human at all but actually a child of Eres, a goddess of the people of the same name who predate even the Imass. She's also implied to have the soul of a Forkrul Assail, although it's not entirely clear how that would work, but if true it would make her a case of My Species Doth Protest Too Much if anyone had any idea what the Forkrul Assail were like at that particular point in the series.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Icarium, whose rage, if it is not contained in some way, can potentially destroy the world.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Constantly switching viewpoints, innumerable characters, deliberate use of Lost in Medias Res, oblique dialogue, philosophical digressions, Purple Prose... The series is quite infamous for being unfriendly to casual readers.
  • Walking Wasteland: Korabas, the Otataral Dragon. Because all life is magic, her aspect causes any area she crosses to become a wasteland. She was chained to keep this from happening, but never got a say in whether she wanted any of it, so naturally, when she gets the chance to fly free in The Crippled God, she does.
  • War Is Hell: Erikson, being an anthropologist and archaeologist, does not shy from showing all the various facets of war.
  • Weird Trade Union:
    • The Rat Catcher's Guild based in Letheras purposes to catch rats and other vermin. In truth, they act as the unofficial assassins guild, the guild of thieves note , a refugee smuggling ring and are conveniently contracted by the crown to investigate disappearances.
    • The Darujhistan-based Trygalle Trade Guild, with offices on several continents, is a collection of would-be adventurers that sign on as shareholders and put their lives on the line to deliver whatever the client wants delivered, which usually involves crossing other dimensions full of things that want to eat and/or skin you alive.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Icarium, Sinn, Feather Witch, Hannan Mosag and lots of the followers of the Crippled God.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: The "naturally immortal species are immune to this" angle is subverted with the Tiste Andii; also, the Emperor of a Thousand Deaths is an example of the Blessed with Suck variety.
    • Living Forever Is Awesome: Onrack, a T'lan Imass, doesn't really mind his immortality because "there's always something else to see".
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds:
    • Rhulad Sengar. It's hard to not to sympathise with him, after his mind starts to slowly break apart because of his deaths... and deaths of his loved ones. Also Udinaas, his only friend, betrays him — or so he thinks...
    • The Crippled God. He's been driven insane by his long imprisonment and all he really wants to do is go home. Towards the end of the final book he really becomes more of a straight-up Woobie and for that matter switches from being the apparent Big Bad to being pretty close to a Big Good.
    • Korabas, the Otataral Dragon. She never asked to be made what she is. Due to her nature, if she isn't chained up, she will destroy life wherever she flies, because life is magic and she is Anti-Magic. Not that she wants to do this - she actually wants to create something rather than destroying it for once in her existence. Unfortunately, she doesn't really have the ability, due to what she is. As a result, she has to be chained up for the survival of essentially everything else on the planet. There's nothing malicious about this on the part of the people keeping her chained - but there's also nothing malicious in her desire to be unchained. Being chained up is boring, after all. It's simply a case of being Blessed with Suck of an extreme level.
  • Women's Mysteries: Among the Tiste Edur, the women are the keepers of their race's history, the truth of it, while the men tend to get watered-down versions handed to them to keep things simple. The women are also the ones who learn healing magic among the Edur.

Alternative Title(s): Malazan Book Of The Fallen, The Malazan Book Of The Fallen

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/MalazanBookOfTheFallen