Night of Knives: A Novel of the Malazan Empire



HE WORLD OF MALAZ WAS BORN IN 1982, AND FROM THAT moment onward that world’s history slowly took shape. On summer archaeological digs and winters spent in Victoria, B.C., in the midst of degrees in Creative Writing, in Winnipeg and on Saltspring Island – wherever Ian (Cam) Esslemont and I crossed paths for any length of time. We were co-writers on a number of feature film scripts, and it was clear that our individual creativities were complementary, and during our breaks from writing we gamed in the world of Malaz.

When the notion of writing fiction set in that world was first approached, it seemed obvious that we would divvy up the vast history we had fashioned over the years. And so we did. Since the publication of Gardens of the Moon, I have heard from and read of fans wanting to know about the old empire, the empire of the Emperor, Kellanved, and his cohort, Dancer. And time and again I was asked: will you ever write of those early times in the empire’s history? Or, will you write about The Crimson Guard? And I have always been firm in my reply: no. The reason should now be obvious.

This is a huge imaginary world, too big for a single writer to manage in a lifetime. But two writers . . . that’s different. The dedication in Gardens of the Moon was to Ian C. Esslemont. Worlds to conquer, worlds to share. I do not think I could have made my desire, and intent, more clear. Granted, it has taken a while for this, Cam’s first work set in Malaz, to arrive. Our life journeys diverged for a time, and other demands occupied Cam – family, postgraduate studies and so on. But I always had faith, was always aware that a surprise and a treat were on their way, and this novel, Night of Knives, marks the first instalment of this, the shared world that we had both envisioned years ago.

Night of Knives is not fan fiction. We shaped the world of Malaz through dialogue; our gaming was novelistic and with themes that were, more often than not, brutally tragic. At other times there was comedy, usually of the droll variety. We duelled each other on understatement and absurdity, and we made it a point to confound the genre’s overused tropes. The spirit of that has infused every one of my novels set in the Malazan world. And it infuses Ian Esslemont’s writing in the same imaginary world. That being said, the novel in your hands possesses its own style, its own voice. The entire story takes place in the span of a single day and night, and it is exquisite. Readers of my own work will recognize the world, its atmosphere, its darkness; they will see the characters in Night of Knives as simply more players woven into the same tangled tapestry, they will see the story as one more bloodstained piece of imagined history. And there’s so much more to come.

To this day, we continue to work on the Malazan world’s history, poring over its details, confirming the sequence of events, discussing the themes, subtext, and ensuring the consistency of cross-over characters. We hammer away at the timeline and the fates of countless characters, many of whom no one else has met yet. And we discuss deviousness, and as the readers of the Malazan Book of the Fallen know, deviousness abounds.

From the beginning of the Malazan series, I was writing to an audience of one – Cam. And he has reciprocated. Thus, the dialogue continues; only now there are others, and they are listening in. Finally, to both sides of the conversation.

We hope it proves entertaining.

Steven Erikson

Winnipeg, Canada, 2004




Emperor Kellanved, absent ruler of the Malazan Empire

Dancer, Master-Assassin and bodyguard to Kellanved

Surly, Mistress of the Imperial assassin corps, the Claw

Tayschrenn, Imperial High Mage

Temper, a Malazan soldier

Corinn, a mage, member of the Bridgeburner Brigade

Ash, an ex-officer of the Bridgeburner Brigade

Seal, a one-time Malazan army healer

Dassem Ultor, Champion and ’First Sword’ of the Empire

Chase, an officer of the garrison at Mock’s Hold

Hattar, bodyguard to Tayschrenn

Ferrule, member of Dassem’s bodyguard, the Sword

Possum, an imperial assassin, Claw


Coop, proprietor of the Hanged Man Inn

Anji, servitor at the Hanged Man Inn

Kiska, a youth hoping to enter Imperial service

Lubben, gatekeeper at Mock’s Hold

Fisherman, a mage of Malaz Isle

Agayla, spice dealer and mage of Malaz Isle

Trenech, regular at the Hanged Man Inn

Faro Balkat, regular at the Hanged Man Inn

Obo, a mage of