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First edition cover
|Cover artist||Steve Stone|
|Series||Malazan Book of the Fallen|
|Published||2004 by Bantam (UK & Canada) & Tor Books (USA)|
|1 March 2004|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|ISBN||0-553-81314-5 (UK paperback edition)|
|Preceded by||House of Chains|
|Followed by||The Bonehunters|
Midnight Tides is the fifth volume of Canadian author Steven Erikson's epic fantasy series, the Malazan Book of the Fallen. Although it is part of the larger series, it has only limited references to the previous books. However, it is not a stand-alone volume as the events of the books Reaper's Gale and Dust of Dreams follow on from it.
Midnight Tides takes place on a continent, called Lether, located on the far side of the world to the Malazan Empire and unknown to it. The book is set in a time before the first book in the series, Gardens of the Moon.
The novel begins with the aftermath of a massive battle between an alliance of Tiste Edur, led by Scabandari Bloodeye, and Tiste Andii, led by Silchas Ruin, against some K'Chain Che'Malle. The scheming Scabandari massacres his former allies to take the land for his own people.
Later, a swordsmith named Withal is washed up on a beach, where he enters the service of the Crippled God to forge a sword.
Many years after this, the Tiste Edur tribes, recently unified under the Warlock King, are to meet with a delegation from the Kingdom of Lether to discuss a treaty. The Letherii are an expansionist society with a reputation for treachery. This reputation is shown to be well-earned when letherii merchant ships begin an illegal seal harvest on Edur territory. Trull Sengar witnesses this and carries word to the Warlock King, who with the aid of his apprentices, destroys the ships. The Edur have acquired many slaves over the years, including Letherii. One evening, while the Edur are at a council meeting, a seer slave called Feather Witch holds a casting, where a Sengar family slave named Udinaas is injured by a Wyval.
In the meantime, in Letheras, the Letherii capital city, Tehol Beddict lives in a house with his manservant, Bugg. Tehol made a fortune on the Letherii equivalent of the stock exchange, but then mysteriously lost it. He now sleeps on the roof of this house, with his possessions gradually dwindling. What no one else in Lether knows is that Tehol only appeared to lose his money and still controls numerous businesses in Lether. He is running a plot to bring down Lether's economy. Tehol's brother Brys is the King's personal bodyguard. The city of Lether is preparing for the fulfillment of a prophecy which states that at the Seventh Closure the King shall become Emperor.
Rise of the Emperor
To increase his power, the Warlock King sends Trull Sengar and his brothers Fear, Binadas and Rhulad on a quest to recover a sword that they will find and bring it back to him without letting it make contact with the skin. They eventually reach a spar of ice holding the sword, where they are attacked by a tribe of Soletaken known as Jheck. Rhulad takes up the sword in combat and is killed while bearing it.
The Sengar brothers return bearing Rhulad's corpse. The corpse will not relinquish the sword, causing a feud between the Warlock King and the Sengars. While his body is being prepared for its funeral, Rhulad returns from the dead through the machinations of the Crippled God. With the aid of the slave Udinaas, Rhulad regains his sanity and seizes power over the Edur. He expels the Letherii delegation and begins preparations for war. Hull Beddict, however, stays and swears his allegiance to Rhulad, giving the Edur valuable information for the war against the Letherii.
Meanwhile in Lether
Tehol Beddict's plans begin to come into fruition. He evacuates non-Letherii citizens, outmaneuvers Gerun Eberict, and keeps his partners outwitted. King Diskanar crowns himself Emperor while Letherii forces under the Queen and Prince are routed and destroyed in battle.
Unknown to most of the city, trouble is brewing in the Azath House there. The house, which contains Silchas Ruin along with many other powerful individuals, is dying, and entrusts an undead child containing the dormant soul of a Forkrul Assail to feed it blood to keep it alive. She is contacted by Bugg, who has more knowledge than one would suspect for a lowly manservant. He gives her advice. Later, a number of beings escape, only to be dealt with by the mysterious Bugg.
Simultaneously, the Edur enter the city and march on the Eternal Domicile (the palace). On their way there, the Wyval that inhabits Udinaas takes control of him and forces him to leave the Edur party. Rhulad is later killed in combat and returned to life. Abandoned by Udinaas, he falls into a state of insanity. The Edur successfully take the Eternal Domicile, despite resistance by the Ceda and Brys Beddict. Trull Sengar kills the Ceda and Brys challenges Rhulad. Brys incapacitates Rhulad without killing him. The rest of the Edur cannot bring themselves to kill their emperor, so he lies on the ground screaming. Newly crowned Emperor Diskanar committed suicide using poisoned wine, as he expected to lose. Upon maiming Rhulad, Brys is pushed by the Errant, an Ascendant, to drink from the poisoned chalice, and thus dies. During the course of his life, Brys had once saved a guardian of dead souls who lived beneath the sea. Upon his death, the guardian came to take him away, and while doing so killed Rhulad out of mercy. However, Feather Witch finds a finger Brys lost in his battle with Rhulad. Trull and Fear flee, though not together.
Back in the Azath house, in the midst of a fierce battle, Udinaas arrives and frees Silchas Ruin. Ruin helps destroy the other creatures. Trull decides to return to Rhulad to aid him in finding his sanity. Tehol, meanwhile, is attacked and nearly killed. His brother Hull is murdered for betraying the Letherii, leaving only lowly Bugg to protect him. Bugg, revealing himself as the Elder God of the Seas, Mael, saves Tehol. Bugg/Mael later leaves to confront the Crippled God as the book ends.
Reviewers have praised Erikson's world-building as well as characterization, noting that it is the most significant work of epic fantasy since Stephen R. Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Erikson revisits several themes used in his prior novels. Publishers Weekly noted that ".. readers with a taste for massive high fantasy epics will welcome Erikson's fifth entry in his Malazan Book of the Fallen saga, though it largely deals with the calm between storms."
- "Midnight Tides: A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen". Publishers Weekly. 2 April 2007. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
- Thompson, William (2004). "The SF Site Featured Review: Midnight Tides". The SF Site. Retrieved 2009-02-22.
- Wolfenden, Karl (20 April 2014). "Midnight Tides by Steven Erikson". fantasy-faction.com. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
- "Midnight Tides by Steven Erikson". Fantasy Book Review. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
- "Midnight Tides". Fantasy Hotlist. 21 May 2006. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
- "Steven Erikson - Midnight Tides (Book Review)". Realms of Speculative fiction. 8 January 2008. Retrieved 12 December 2015.