Night of Knives is the first novel by Canadian author Ian Cameron Esslemont. It is set in the world of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, a ten-volume epic fantasy series by Esslemont's friend and colleague Steven Erikson. Esslemont and Erikson co-created the Malazan world in the 1980s.

Night of Knives was first published in the United Kingdom by PS Publishing in September 2004 as a limited hardcover. A paperback edition followed in May 2006. Bantam, who publish Steven Erikson's Malazan novels, published Night of Knives in hardcover on 7 May 2007 and in mass-market paperback on 5 May 2008. Its first U.S. publication was published by Tor Books in May 2009.

Night of Knives is the first of six novels by Esslemont, each collectively subtitled A Novel of the Malazan Empire. It is followed by Return of the Crimson Guard, Stonewielder, Orb Sceptre Throne, Blood and Bone, and Assail.

The novel is set in the 24 hours when the Emperor of the Malazan Empire is murdered. Chronologically, it takes place after the prologue to Erikson's Gardens of the Moon but before the main body of the novel. Several characters and locations which appear in Night of Knives also appear in Erikson's The Bonehunters.

Publisher's SummaryEdit

The small island of Malaz and its city gave the great empire its name, but now it is little more than a sleepy, backwater port. Tonight, however, things are different. Tonight the city is on edge, a hive of hurried, sometimes violent activity; its citizens bustle about, barring doors, shuttering windows, avoiding any stranger's stare. Because tonight there is to be a convergence, the once-in-a-generation appearance of a Shadow Moon - an occasion that threatens the good people of Malaz with demon hounds and other, darker things...

It was also prophesied that this night would witness the return of Emperor Kellanved, and there are those prepared to do anything to prevent this happening. As factions within the greater Empire draw up battle lines over the imperial throne, the Shadow Moon summons a far more ancient and potent presence for an all-out assault upon the island. Witnessing these cataclysmic events are Kiska, a young girl who yearns to flee the constraints of the city, and Temper, a grizzled, battle-weary veteran who seeks simply to escape his past. Each is to play a part in a conflict that will not only determine the fate of Malaz City, but also of the world beyond …

Drawing on events touched on in the prologue of Steven Erikson's landmark fantasy Gardens of the Moon, Night of Knives is a momentous chapter in the unfolding story of the extraordinarily imagined world of Malaz.

Front matterEdit


This novel is dedicated to
who made the world real


This work's long journey from conception to print has been full of aid from many unexpected directions. It grew out of a collaboration of many years' standing with Steven Erikson that continues to be rich and rewarding, creatively and in friendship. To him must go my greatest thanks for our partnership in creating the world of Malaz. I would also like to thank Simon Taylor for his generosity of spirit, William Thompson for his encouragement and editing skills, my agent, John Jarrold, and Gerri Brightwell for her long-standing support and insightful comments. And finally, extraordinary thanks to Peter Crowther for taking a chance on an unknown.


A short introduction by Steven Erikson.


Plot SummaryEdit

Night of Knives
Dramatis Personae Prologue
1. Portents and Arrivals
2. Assignations
3. Hounds of Shadow
4. Old Enemies, Old Friends
5. Feints and Fates
6. Resolutions
Epilogue Pagination


The following summaries contain spoilers
Please access individual chapter summaries via the Chapter infobox


The raider Rheni's Dream encounters the Stormriders in the Sea of Storms, south of Malaz Isle, with fatal consequences.

Chapter 1Edit

Within the space of a couple of days, an imperial warship as well as a message cutter dock in Malaz Harbour. The disembarkation of various secretive passengers is independently observed by the veteran Temper and by the young girl Kiska. The former is concerned that the Claw coming off the first ship are possibly after him and he recalls events from the past, when he served alongside Dassem and saw the workings of the Claw close-up, however, a first encounter passes without incidence. The latter is hoping that entering imperial service will be her ticket off the island, however she recalls how the Claw agent she met from the first ship treated her with something bordering on disdain. Temper is told by a local that the night to come is one of the Shadow Moon, when damned souls escape and new ones get caught. Returning to his lodgings, he finds the common room of the Inn filled with strangers, an ex-Bridgeburner amongst them. Kiska meanwhile is trailing a man who is following the passenger and his guards who came off the message cutter.

Chapter 2Edit

The fisherman Toben sails out into the Strait of Storms and puts himself between the oncoming storm and Malaz Isle, keeping its ferocity away from the island with the help of an ancient chant. The trail Kiska is following eventually leads her to an abandoned manor where she comes across an apparent murder. After the killer has left, she examines the body and screams in horror when it suddenly grabs her. She ends up in an unknown realm where the apparent murder victim Oleg gives her a message for the passenger from the boat. Upon returning she is nearly strangled by the killer but saved by the shade of the dead man. Temper in the meantime finds out that his friend Corinn knows who he really is. She can't prevent him being apprehended by the Bridgeburner from the common room even though she is part of the forty odd men and women around the man. The group departs, leaving four behind to guard Temper, Coop, Faro and Trenech inside the Inn. They hear howls of huge dogs and what sounds like the death cries of the two guards left outside. Eventually there is a confrontation which sees the other four killed by Temper and Trenech.

Chapter 3Edit

Stormriders are attacking Toben in his boat out in the Straights but their ice-lances and icebergs melt before reaching him. Kiska is pulled into the Shadow Realm again and meets Edgewalker. He advises her to flee to Obo's Tower to escape the Hound of Shadow. Kiska and Obo don't get on and he refuses her entry but tells her that the Hound has gone. Returned to the real world, Kiska heads to her aunt Agayla's Shop and recalls her various encounters. Agayla gives Kiska some background information about the current political situation and why it is leading to a convergence that night. Kiska persuades Agayla to let her go back out into the night and her aunt gives her a message for the man she is following. Temper goes to Seal, an ex-army healer, from whom he borrows some armour as well as retrieving his own distinctive helmet which he has stored in Seal's house. Kiska has found the passenger from the boat again but is kidnapped by the mercenaries under Ash, the ex-Bridgeburner. She escapes after witnessing many of the mercenaries getting killed by a Hound. Temper also meets Edgewalker. Upon his return he is set upon by a Hound and puts up a heroic fight but eventually loses consciousness due to his many wounds. Following a secret path up to Mock's Hold, Kiska is apprehended by Hattar, the bodyguard of the passenger from the boat whom she has been trying to find. Being told she has a message, the man, Artan, appears. She gives him Agayla's scroll as well as Oleg's message that he believes that Kellanved and Dancer will attempt to enter the Deadhouse that night. They refuse to take her along and leave her tied up but she soon manages to free herself and follow them to the Hold.

Chapter 4Edit

The Stormriders use a ruse to overcome Toben. Agayla and Obo meet on the southern shore to discuss the threat posed by the riders. Agayla tells Obo that she has sent for help. Temper has another flashback to the Siege of Y'Ghatan and recall how Dassem, Temper and the others of Dassem's First Sword fought against the Y'Ghatan champion Surgen Ress. He remembers how Dassem was wounded and how most of his fellow bodyguards died because their regular army support failed to arrive in time. He also recalls his own fight against the champion then regains consciousness. He has been saved from the Hound by Shadow cultists. They ask for his help but he declines and they part ways amicably. Temper again thinks of the past, recalling how he and Ferrule fought the Claws detaining them, how they managed to escape with Dassem, then parted ways weeks later and how the official version is that all three of them died at Y'Ghatan. Kiska has entered the hold and comes across bodies of mercenaries and Claw everywhere. She eventually finds Artan and Hettar. The three observe a warrior, whom Kiska saw besting a Claw earlier, negotiate with a cultist. The warrior departs, taking with him the mercenary mage whose body materialises out of thin air and the cultist turns towards the doorway of the hidden observers. Temper, the warrior, meanwhile is taking Corinn to be looked after by the gatekeeper Lubben whilst he fulfills his side of the deal he made with the cultist, Dancer.

Chapter 5Edit

Dancer greets Artan, who turns out to be the High MageTayschrenn, and warns him not to go upstairs until the conflict is ended, then disappears. They hear sounds of fighting and an enraged scream from a female voice. Venturing upstairs they find the lightly wounded Surly being tended by Possum and dead Claw everywhere, especially near some broken balcony doors. The Mercenary leader Ash is amongst the dead in the room and Kellanved and Dancer are presumed dead, having jumped off the balcony. Tayschrenn orders Hattar and Kiska back downstairs where they fall asleep. Despite being warned by Trenech and Faro, Temper enters the grounds of the Deadhouse which starts heaving and emitting steam. A huge figure steps out of the House. Agayla and Obo have been joined by Tayschrenn, who is persuaded that the Riders might be after the power of the Deadhouse, and agrees to help them in their fight. Kiska travels with Corinn and Lubben via Warren to the Deadhouse. She is separated from them when she is drawn into the Shadow Realm where she meets Edgewalker again, then is returned to an area near the Deadhouse. Temper is beset by the roots of the trees in the grounds of the Deadhouse which are trying to drag him under. Trenech and Faro meanwhile are fighting the Jaghut that came out of the House. Kiska witnesses as Oleg tries to prevent Kellanved from entering the Deadhouse from the rear. Oleg is thwarted by Dancer and swallowed up by the ground and the other two enter the House. Temper collapses having managed to get out of the grounds whilst the fighting at the front continues. Trenech is killed by a cultist and Tayschrenn supports Faro against the Jaghut but is wounded. Kiska and Hattar take him to a healer. Faro with his last breath asks Temper to take over guarding the gate and Temper agrees. After a long fight which involves a detour into Omtose Phellack, he defeats the Jaghut.

Chapter 6Edit

Kiska has been healed and finds out that Tayschrenn and Hattar are at the wharf. She finds them on the message cutter and gets permission to come with them then rushes off to say her goodbyes to Agayla and her mother. Temper returns to duty at Mock's Hold and pretends that he has no knowledge of what went on overnight. He observes the message cutter leaving.


Edgewalker is introduced to Kellanved and Dancer. The meeting is ambivalent. Two children find a strange corpse on the beach. They return with their grandfather who asks them to stay back whilst he goes and investigates. The creature turns out to be a Stormrider, who asks 'why are you killing us' before being killed by the grandfather.


Knives and RotCG were written way back. They were among the earliest (if not the first) prose explorations in the world, contemporaneous with Steve and my screenplay writing, including Gardens of the Moon (if I remember correctly). When these two works were accepted for publication I had to rewrite RotCG to bring it up to speed and to adjust the main narrative lines, including certain events and character lines, etc. Other than this however, the broad thrust of it, its arc and main events, remained as originally envisioned.
--Ian Esslemont

In Erikson's recollection, Return of the Crimson Guard existed in some form by the time of Gardens of the Moon's publication, but Night of Knives was penned afterwards.

At my first convention (after the release of GotM) I met Peter Crowther who ran PS Publishing and he plied me with booze until I agreed to give him a novella, and Blood Follows was that novella. But it occurred to me that here might be an avenue for Cam (Ian). He wasn't ready yet with Return of the Crimson Guard, so instead he penned a novel called Night of Knives, and this would mark his first foray into the Malazan setting.
--Steven Erikson
  • In early versions of the novel, Chapter 4 was mistitled as Chapter 5.
  • PS Publishing produced limited editions of the entire Novels of the Malazan Empire series. Of the six books, only Night of Knives and Assail were published in a single volume. The others were all broken into two books with their own individual covers.

Cover galleryEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.