Well, I finally finished reading a Steven Erikson book - the first epic fantasy I've read in about seven years.
And, I must say, it was quite unlike the epic fantasy I used to read. "Reaper's Gale" tells many different stories about many different characters, linked by a common - though by no means all encompassing - thread. However, there are no "heroes," or at least no simple ones; and neither are there happy or simple conclusions. It is brutal; it is lush; it is ancient; it is febrile with occultism and darkness. Perhaps the reason I liked Reaper's Gale so much was that it synched so keenly with my own worldview.
In that sense, I would call Erikson's fantasy "mature" and "thoughtful;" but really, I'd just be saying that I agree with the philosophical foundations that seem to underpin his stories (which, obviously, may or may not represent his actual beliefs). Still, I would recommend his work to anyone who likes fantasy, generally, and especially to those who are keen for something less fuzzy - but still incredibly magical and full of immense life.
I haven't read anything quite so long in a long time, either - my brief calculation is that Reaper's Gale clocks at least 300,000 words - but Erikson never bored me, which is something that occurs even with shorter, non-epic works. This may have had to do with the fact that he so brilliantly portrays such a diverse cast of characters.
Anyway, I would now count Erikson among my favourite authors. Why? There are stirrings in the soul that cannot be completely articulated in terms of words and concepts. For lack of a good argument, then, I offer a metaphor: I like the Malazan Book of the Fallen (Erikson's series) because the work reminded me, before anything else, of those really classic black metal tunes that sound like they're wrenched from the maw of some Elder God:
Yes, sir: Beherit would be a High Mage in Erikson's universe, I think.