I didn't fully appreciated what Steven Erikson was doing with this book and, in turn, the series until I read further into the second book, Deadhouse Gates. The depths and breadths of these stories are immense. I can't even fathom how much more there is of these worlds he's set up, and they're only set-ups in this book--there's so much more to come. The surface has not even been scratched yet.
If you're confused now, just wait it out. Things make more sense when they come together in later books.
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First of all, what a tragic book cover. Good thing I don't judge books by their covers, least of all fantasy book series.
When I first started reading this book, I couldn't get through it, but I pushed on anyway because friends promised that hard work usually pays off in Steven Erikson's books. I'm not that far along in the series yet, so the pay off remains to be seen.