The Malazan world, which is collectively created by Steven Erikson and Ian Cameron Esslemont, has a veritable horde of morally ambiguous and fascinating characters. It has gods, ascendants (people who have godlike powers but either they aren’t worshipped or they don’t accept their Godship), wizards, assassins, humans, demons and a multitude of humanoid and non-human races.
But there is one which stands taller than any other character. His name is Anomander Rake.
Also known as the Son of Darkness. Lord of the Moon Spawn, of the Black Coral, Wielder of Dragnipur.
He is a Tiste Andii – they are one of the invading races in the Malazan world having insanely long life-spans, probably forever. They originally belong to Kural Galain, which is the realm of Darkness, and not in the Malazan world.
“If we are to live, we must take risks. Else our lives become deaths in all but name.”
(Note: The word “Darkness” doesn’t portray “evil” here. Nor “Light” is epitome of goodness, no. This is kind of common stereotype in fantasy literature, particularly in the Lord of the Rings and other Tolkienesqe fantasy. In the Malazan world, Light, Dark and Shadow are mere aspects of the universe. Nothing more, nothing less.)
Anomander Rake is the ruler of the Tiste Andii. He is described as having jet-black skin (typifying his Tiste Andii origin), long silver hair, eyes that shift colour, a broad back and a tall, muscled figure.
He is 300,000+ years old and still looks young. How could you not like him?
“There is no struggle too vast, no odds too overwhelming, for even should we fail – should we fall – we will know that we have lived.”
Now, let’s talk about his martial prowess, which is formidable, to say the least.
His weapon of choice is a massive two-handed sword called Dragnipur. That sword is so powerful that it has a realm inside it, and whoever is killed, or even wounded by the sword, is thrown into that realm; where the hapless victim is bound to a huge wagon by chains and is forced to drag himself forward for eternity.
Add to the power of the sword, Rake is an archmage. Even the most powerful mages in the series cower before his tremendous power.
If his sword and magical abilities weren’t enough, Anomander Rake can shapeshift into an enormous black dragon in the blink of an eye, unleashing chaos on his enemies.
Even with those fearsome powers, Rake wouldn’t have had appealed to me all that much if not for that obscurity surrounding him. That aura of mystery, that abstruseness.
First, Rake doesn’t have a POV (point of view). All we see of him is from the viewpoint of other characters. Second, he prefers solitude. Third, his appearances are quite rare in the series even though he’s one of the most powerful characters in the Malazan world. If not the most powerful.
That is why, I think, Anomander Rake is so captivating. For he is unimaginably charismatic, and yet clandestine. He is enigmatic… nay, he is enigma itself.