The Lees of Laughter’s End by Steven Erikson
Synopsis from GoodReads:
In the wake of their blissful sojourn in the city of Lamentable Moll, the intrepid sorcerors Bauchelain and Korbal Broach — along with their newly hired manservant, Emancipor Reese — have set out on the wide open seas aboard the sturdy Suncurl.
Alas, there’s more baggage in the hold than meets the beady eyes of Suncurl’s hapless crew, and once on the cursed sea-lane known as Laughter’s End — the Red Road in which flows the blood of an Elder God — unseemly terrors are prodded awake, to the understated dismay of all.
It is said that it is not the destination that counts, but the journey itself. Such a noble, worthy sentiment. Aye, it is the journey that counts, especially when what counts is horror, murder, mischance and mayhem. For Bauchelain, Korbal Broach and Emancipor Reese, it is of course just one more night on the high seas, on a journey without end — and that counts for a lot.
First off, what a fantastic October read! Erikson is proving as deft at horror as (I think) he is at epic fantasy. Especially that opening scene. Oh man, talk about shivers. And of course the mere presence – and activities – of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, the menacing necromancers who play significant side roles in several of the Malazan novels.
Another thing I really appreciated about this novella, apart from the spooky atmosphere, is the way it continues Erikson’s (and fellow Malazan writer Ian C. Esslemont’s) efforts to underline the fact that there IS a whole world out there, and we only ever see parts of it. Parts that are in motion, that started before we saw them and will continue after we leave them. Not only are we introduced to more places, another religion (I suspect), and, of course, more characters, but those people didn’t just start to be plunked into the adventures of the necromancers and Emancipor Reese. No, they came from somewhere and are going elsewhere. Provided they survive, of course. And, well, it’s not like death is the end in this world. Especially when there are a pair of necromancers around.
On the other hand, I didn’t find this novella as engaging as the previous entry. The side characters weren’t as sympathetic or interesting, the plot meandered a bit more, and there were more scenes – and lines – that bothered me or didn’t really do anything for me.
It’s still well-written and there are still some very good horror aspects. The characters of Emancipor Reese, Korbal Broach, and Bauchelain get further development. But, again, I don’t think it was as good.
Still 3 stars.