Help me read these books!

Having almost finished book two I have to say I have thoroughly enjoyed most of the two books and it is clear this series is one of the greats in Fantasy (from others comments about the quality remaining high). I was really impressed by the complete change in the setting between book one and two (such as an Assassins war in a city compared to desperate defensive march in another land). They are very different stories whereas many series tend to follow a general layout through each book.

The lack of explanation of races and themes in the first book is a bit frustrating at that stage and I think for that reason it will never quite get the popularity to be widely regarded as the best ever Epic Fantasy. Also the way increasingly powerful demons/explosives/mages appear at random to trump whatever trouble is happening could get a bit tiresome. Other than that it is amazing, I slightly preferred the first book to the second due to the Assassin guild setting.

On the depressing nature question I actually found the first book very funny. Krupke has an amusing comment in almost every line he says. The second book did have a few too many thoughts of tragedy and despair from both of the Historians and others. Yes, we get the idea of the various massacres over the centuries.

On a side note I moved to Canada just over a year ago and was interested to see that when I mentioned his books to several people here they had never heard of him. They are not fantasy junkies but have read books like LOTR and GOT so I was a little surprised that he is not known about in the slightest by most (I think) Canadians. From these forums I have the impression he is regarded as one of the greatest ever Epic Fantasy Writers. Well, wait till a tv series I guess..
Speaking as a Canadian myself, I think he's fantastic (and we can even proudly claim him as our own, along with Guy Gavriel Kay and Scott Bakker.)

The sheer size of the series (both in page count and scale) works against it becoming more generally popular, I think, as does the depressing outlook of so many characters (however justified by the story and the world they inhabit.) Then again, none of these things stopped Game of Thrones from taking off.

On the other hand, there's the hurdle of Gardens to get over. The poor impression it often makes that turns readers off before they get to Deadhouse Gates is the single biggest problem to broader readership. Unfortunately in his new intro, Steven writes he can't imagine how he'd do it any differently, so I'm not expecting a revised edition.
It doesn't sound good that a lot of people have to convince themselves to continue to the next book of the series after finishing one - I totally feel that way too - but, I really think this series is incredible and I fully intend to keep going with it, reading the next book in the series every year or two, as they're a tough and long read while I'm in them that I need that break.
I'm kind of in the middle with wanting to give up and say 'they're not for me' and just wanting to read them non-stop until I get to the end, but mostly I'd say I lean more towards loving it and not being able to get enough! :)
Well i've read them all, and i 'm probably in the minority when i'm saying i preferred the latter books.

The marines trek towards Lether, their stand against the Pures, Anomander actions with the sword (cryptic enough to no be to spoilerish i hope) they are the stuff that stand out for me.

I liked the Wickans as well, but their awesome parts where soured by having to read through the Felesin chapters in the same book.