This series is killing me. I am obsessed. My library only has up to book 6, but I am seriously going to buy the entire 10 book series (and the companion series set in the same world by Erikson's partner in crime Ian C. Esslemont.)
I kind of dislike reviewing books in the middle of series, obviously if I'm still reading, I like the series well enough, but it's not like you're going to start with book 3, and with 7 books to go, there's no wrap-up here. So, this book takes place roughly over the same time period as book 2, but with a different cast of characters, many of which we met in book 1, some in book 2, and some new. There's such a sense of a real world here, as fantastic a world (or indeed, worlds, if you count the warrens) as it might be.
I keep mentioning the Glen Cook legacy, but it's more than just the style, there's also the layered morality. Not one of these characters is without a flaw, they're all just doing the best they can, with what they know and the resources they have. Nobody is completely evil either, not even the ones that may have felt that way at the end of book 1. Ok, I can think of two major baddies so far, who are absolutely without a positive character trait (Pormqual and Bidithal, in case you care). In the Book of the Fallen, and most particularly in this book, every single other character is the hero of their own story, and they all think they are just trying to make the world better, even if some of them are choosing really screwed up ways to do it. Erikson even manages to make me feel empathy for the ancient demonic K'Chain Che'Malle matriarch, stripped of her mind and her spawn.
Book four didn't start out so great for me, the long tangent with Karsa seemed slightly out of place, it felt partly like we'd been thrown back in time a few hundred thousand years (I guess we sorta had, but not really. This will make no sense if you haven't read this book :), and also, we stuck with him as POV character for a lot longer than we normally do, these books jump around between storylines a lot. I found it actually improved when it started to do that again, although by then I'd kind of gotten to like Karsa's character quite a lot. And I'm gonna say, having Onrack turn up in this book, then the revelation at the end about the goddess, felt a little off - in book 4, where we're still unravelling mysteries from book 1, and setting up a ton of new ones, having one set up and then solved right in the same book had me actually confused I'd missed hints earlier. And I may have. But I don't think so.
Anyway, it picked up like crazy about a third of the way in, and that ending was a mind blower if ever there was one. And I loved it to pieces, yay for my beloved bridgeburners. And the dogs. And even Duiker's horse! Nothing, and nobody, is forgotten and left hanging in these books, and despite their density, it seems every little ostensibly throwaway observation or description has a payoff somewhere. And I expect the results of that unprecedented battle at the end of the story will be reverberating the entire rest of the series.
And I still get why a lot of people hate this series, but I am definitely not one of them.
A recommendation once again though, if you're having difficulty with them, I can recommend the Tor re-read series, a spoiler free discussion after each couple of chapters (well spoiler free if you don't read the comment threads after).
Finally, I'm using this book (actually both these books) for my SockPoppet Challenge, for V for Veteran. If you aren't familiar with them, they're part of an epic saga involving a military empire, and most of the characters are, or have been, serving military - in particular, these first books have overall centered on the Bridgeburners, a company of sappers (military engineers), the battles and escapades they get caught up in, and everyone who ever crossed paths with any of them.